By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury collected $157,901 in local option taxes during the last quarter of 2008, leaving officials optimistic the new revenue source will yield adequate funds over time to cover the town’s share of the Cross Street Bridge project.
On Oct. 1, 2008, Middlebury began to levy a 1-percent local option tax on sales, rooms, meals and alcohol transactions. The new taxes — authorized by local voters last May — are intended to cover $7 million of the total $16 million costs of the Cross Street Bridge project, which is being financed through a 30-year bond.
Middlebury College has agreed to donate the remaining $9 million in project costs.
The Vermont Department of Taxes (VDT), which keeps 30 percent of local options revenues, on Monday released its tally of how much in local taxes it collected on behalf of the town between Oct. 1, and Dec. 31, 2008. Middlebury’s 70-percent local options cut for that time period — traditionally the highest-yield quarter in terms of tax revenues — amounted to $118,427.02 in sales and use taxes and another $39,474 in meals, rooms and alcohol taxes, according to Middlebury Assistant Town Manager Joe Colangelo.
Municipal officials had estimated the local option taxes tax could raise around $700,000 annually, more than enough to meet Cross Street Bridge debt payments. Officials are not worried that the tax won’t raise enough to cover the bond, but they will be looking at revenues very closely during the next few quarters, in light of the sagging economy.
The new Cross Street Bridge, slated for completion within the next two years, will link Main Street with Court Street over the Otter Creek, via Cross Street. The project, which will include a roundabout intersection at Bakery Lane and College and Main streets, is designed to move traffic more smoothly through, and around, downtown Middlebury.
Town officials reasoned that a local options tax would harness revenues from out-of-towners who would use the bridge and who currently contribute to Middlebury’s traffic load.